It was expected that this was just a two-band tour with Moonspell and Rotting Christ co-headlining but just before the show I discovered there was an unknown quantity or an extra item in the baggage area.

This turned out to be Silver Dust from Switzerland and entering the venue I was surprised to see an elaborate stage set up for them with a big banner and side panels projecting visuals and stills describing their story. It seemed to be some sort of WWI schtick and as the band appeared looming in top hats and tails with a cyber-punk look we were up for an over the top grimly fiendish theatrical display here. I immediately thought of them as friends of Moonspell joining the massive 50 date tour as Rotting Christ are obviously a bit more serious than to expect this as particularly suitable entertainment. Heavy metal and thrash stylings matched their grand-guignol, Circus Of Horrors styled theatre and the band including members named Lord Campbell and Tiny Pistol knew exactly how to work both stage and audience.

Songs such as House 21 seemed totally designed for the Euro festival circuit and came across a bit like our very own Hell, flamboyant and frankly daft. As with all gimmick metal although entertaining to watch, musically it is not very good (and that’s me being polite). Oh my, every cliché is hit including a well known Toccata that would have had Bach turning in his grave. The audience did not seem particularly moved but give this lot a few years and you can easily see them as the meat in a shit sandwich between Sabaton and Evil Scarecrow. With big lalalala (repeat ad infinitum) chorus lines and mock backing choral work this got stale very quickly and by the time they threw out some dubstep and Ghost(l)y cod occultist stylings I couldn’t wait for this coffin to be nailed firmly shut.

Hitting the ground running and igniting fast strumming Kaos, Hellenic masters Rotting Christ are a totally different proposition and completely serious in their craft. This is what we had been waiting for and it was absolutely explosive throughout. 666 is their number and the beast is unleashed in a furious deluge of hammer blow drumming and strobe overload to match. The sound is fantastic and to say we were getting blown off our feet is hardly an understatement. Sakis leads, others follow and the 2019 tour incarnation including Giannis and Kostas on guitar and bass are well coordinated and lethal as they execute everything with absolute precision. The harmonics spiral through the auditorium, weaving finesse through new number Fire, God And Fear. They stomp, they cleave, they blaze away and it’s totally invigorating as the massive sound courses through us.

Dark and delicious this is a band who can get audience clapping along without it feeling cheesy in the slightest, it spreads through the audience along with throat shredding screams and tribal beats in time with mine and no doubt others beating hearts. From the chanting choral backing parts and hammering drums this is pure devilry unleashed and the band seem happy, saluting London a place they seem very much at home in. The set includes Thou Art Lord number ‘Societas Satanas’ and a haunting ‘In Yumen-Xibalba’ as we walk through the decades with the Grecian warriors. “We hold the secrets” and incantations come thick and fast. It’s over far too quickly but not without old classic Non Serviam before they leave us thoroughly sated and completely decimated. One of the best live sets witnessed in a long time!

From the warmth of Greece to Portugal, our visitors must be feeling the chill and with Fernando from Moonspell walking on stage carrying a lantern it’s a suitably atmospheric and chilly entrance. I have seen the band many times over the years and like their albums found them to be a bit of a hit or miss affair. The Irreligious tour date at the Astoria was a storming show as was the one at The Underworld in 2013 with Insomnium.  Not so last time I caught them at Incineration Fest at the Dome but I was open to hearing songs new and old tonight. Last album 1755 was the starting point for the first few numbers and not having heard it I found things hard to get into. Obviously the ideas behind it are fascinating but I found myself kind of lost both musically and linguistically here. The theatrics are as ever amusing to witness although not sure about the leather studded plague mask and had to wonder if this distraction was handmade for the performance or picked up drunkenly from a German sex shop on tour.

The audience seem clappy-happy but many do start filing out after a while and some impromptu dancing at the side of the bar was more mockery than anything else. I just wasn’t feeling it here even on more familiar numbers such as Opium with its pomp and sing along friendliness or ‘Night Eternal’ and after the charge of the last band the fact we were merely swaying here proved that this tour has the bands playing in completely the wrong order. Extinct did finally hit the mark with some savagery and the familiar guitar plucking lines heralding ‘Everything Invaded’ had me sticking around determined not to admit defeat. Heading to the balcony for an overhead view seemed like a good idea especially for the blood red caped and inevitable Vampiria. Unfortunately after this Alma Mater sounded a complete mess and despite a no doubt upcoming encore it was a case of fangs for the night but I’m outta here. Now where did I park the batmobile?

Review and Photos Pete Woods